DENVER, Co., 29 May 2012. The Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT] team developing the Global Positioning System (GPS) III satellites has powered on the program’s satellite pathfinder, the GPS III Non-Flight Satellite Testbed (GNST), with elements of its navigation payload onboard. The test shows that the GPS III team is currently on track to deliver the first satellite for launch availability in 2014.
In Lockheed Martin’s GPS processing facility (GPF), engineers successfully powered on the GNST with major elements of its navigation payload, including atomic clocks for GPS accuracy, and the mission data unit, the main piece of the GPS III navigation payload. The test was completed prior to integrating the full navigation payload element, which is scheduled for delivery to the GPF this fall.
The GPS III program will replace aging GPS satellites to improve the system's capability to meet the demands of military, commercial and civilian users. GPS III satellites will deliver accurate data and be more resistant to jamming while adding a new civil signal designed to be interoperable with international global navigation satellite systems.
The Air Force has initiated a “back-to-basics” acquisition approach for the GPS III. The strategy emphasizes early investments in systems engineering and parts standards to reduce risk, improve production predictability, increase mission assurance and lower program costs. These investments in the GPS III program are meant to prevent the sort of engineering issues that have been discovered on other programs late in the manufacturing process or even in orbit. The acquisition approach has lead to reductions in labor hours and identified process improvements during GNST testing.
Lockheed Martin was awarded the contract for the design, development and production of the GPS III Non-Flight Satellite Testbed (GNST) and the first two GPS III satellites, with priced options for up to 10 additional satellites, in 2008. In early 2012 the Air Force exercised a $238 million option for production of the next two satellites, GPS III space vehicles three and four. The Air Force currently plans to purchase up to 32 GPS III satellites.
The GPS III team is led by the Global Positioning Systems Directorate at the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center. Lockheed Martin is the GPS III prime contractor with teammates ITT Exelis, General Dynamics, Infinity Systems Engineering, Honeywell, ATK and other subcontractors. Air Force Space Command's 2nd Space Operations Squadron (2SOPS), based at Schriever Air Force Base, Colo., manages and operates the GPS constellation for both civil and military users.